The sound of acorns dropping signals nature’s bounty in Pennsylvania for hunters
Certain sights and even smells trigger memories of things that I strongly connect with the hunting experience. The same is true of sounds – the thunder of a grouse flushing and the baying of beagles hot on the trail of a cottontail are both invigorating sounds of the hunt. And, what can be more exciting than the crack of a nearby rifle shot while you are waiting for a big buck to stroll by?
Archery deer season is upon us here in Pennsylvania, and lucky for us, another very important sound is afield. While not as dramatic as a grouse flush or the report of a rifle, it is a sound that I love to hear – and you should, too.
For the past two weeks, I have been listening to the sound of falling acorns. It usually begins as a tick of something solid against the canopy leaves – sort of like a pencil eraser tapping a piece of paper. Then the sound moves downward as the acorn drops through the lower oak branches and plops onto the forest floor. Today I heard one begin to drop, and on the way down it hit other acorns – creating a cascade of acorns.
This is a wonderful sound, because it signifies nature’s bounty. In much, but not all, of the state, oak is king – that is, the king of producing wildlife food. Deer, bears, turkeys, ruffed grouse, wood ducks, and squirrels all depend on acorns – the fruit of various species of oak trees – to fatten and carry them through winter. In addition to these notable game species, many other non-game species from blue jays to white-footed deer mice all depend on calorie-rich acorns. It is a lean year for forest dwellers when no acorns are present.
I cannot speak for the entire Keystone State, but in my neck of the woods, most oak trees are loaded with acorns. On State Game Land 33 in Centre County, chestnut oak branches are weighted down with plump acorns. In late September, I jumped a group of deer that were feeding under a chestnut oak tree on game land 33. Many of the abundant scrub oaks are also loaded. In Blair and Huntingdon counties, hunting grounds are already littered with red oak and some of the smaller white oak acorns.
On my own property in western Centre County, I sit in the woods listening to the almost-constant sound of dropping acorns. These are mostly from red and black oak trees. I have seen fewer hickory and beech nuts this fall, but soft mast – wild black cherries, apples, hawthorn fruits and crabapples are all in abundance.
While falling acorns signal bounty, they also signal a change in deer behavior. Acorns will not be the only thing that deer eat, but they are certainly a favored menu item.
A bountiful acorn crop means that deer will travel less and spend less time feeding. It would be wise for archery hunters to locate a stand of white or chestnut oaks and consider concentrating their efforts there.
Whether acorns bring you hunting success or not, rest assured that, if acorns are abundant in your hunting area, all wildlife will have an easier time negotiating winter.